A double horn is tuned from the shortest tube down to the longest tube, adjusting one new slide into position each step of the way. For example, Trigger 0 is the first fingering to check, and its Root Harmonics are the F’s and its Fifth Harmonics are the C’s. Trigger 2 has E’s as the Roots and B’s as the Fifths. (Confused? See Emily’s Expandable Harmonics Warmup for reference.) Check each fingering’s Root and Fifth harmonics with a tuner in multiple octaves, and look for an average trend. If all of the roots and fifths are sharp/too high, then pull that slide out and retest. If they’re all flat/too low, push in. If they’re a mixed bag, then use your discretion to decide whether the most frequently used notes on that fingering seem sharp or flat.

(Side note: some professionals prefer to flip the trigger and non-trigger setting to match the European style of tuning. If this is you, reverse the trigger and non-trigger references below.)

  1. T0: play your F’s & your C’s; adjust your main tuning slide (and T0 slide, if you have one)
  2. T2: E & B; T2 slide
  3. T1: Eb & Bb; T1 slide
  4. (skip T12 tuning; this will always be a little sharp)
  5. T23: Db & Ab; T3 slide
  6. 0: C & G; “F Horn Tuning Slide” AKA “Non-Trigger Open Slide”
  7. Compare your middle C and third-space C on both T0 and 0. They should match as best as possible. If the C’s are flatter on 0 than T0, push the F Horn Tuning Slide in. If the C’s are sharper on 0 than T0, pull the F Horn Tuning Slide out. It’s important to try to match the tuning of the two halves of your horn, the “Bb horn” (triggers) and the “F horn” (non-triggers). (Note: if you have a Bb horn/T0 tuning slide, you may adjust that as well. Most horns do not have a T0 tuning slide.)
  8. 2: B & F#; 2 slide
  9. 1: Bb & F; 1 slide
  10. (skip tuning 12)
  11. 23: Ab & Eb; 3 slide

Done! Some caveats:

  • The four Major Third Harmonics (middle E played Open, middle Eb played on 2, middle D on 1, and middle C# on 12) tend to be naturally pretty flat, so don’t worry about adjusting your slides for those notes when you’re tuning the horn. Many players opt to use a set of five Bb horn alternate fingerings for middle C# through middle F (T23, T12, T1, T2, and T0) to avoid that problem.
  • In general, 12 and T12 notes tend to be sharp; you can try 3/T3 as a substitute if necessary, or temporarily adjust your right hand to lower a single note.
  • Your lowest and highest octaves might have different tuning tendencies that your middle two octaves. You can work on your playing skills in lessons to improve any problems you may have with your lowest and highest registers.

Be aware of some other variables that affect whether you’re too high or too low. Your right hand position, lip tension & oral cavity shape, and the temperature of your environment can each greatly affect the tuning. Ideally, you should play with a consistent hand position, at room temperature, with minimal lip tension and an open (think “ooo” or “Oh”) oral cavity shape. Temperature is beyond your control, so if you find yourself in a very hot environment, pull your main tuning slide out; in cold, push it in.

Sounds confusing? Ask for help! We can dedicate a lesson to tuning your horn.